Tuesday, 31 March 2020

March Wrap-up


Well, it's been... a month. I hope you're all holding up okay. If you're feeling low, please talk to someone. 

Like most people, I'm currently working from home. I have yet to find the answer to how much chocolate I can consume in a day. Studies currently ongoing suggest that the amount may be limitless. 

I've also been acting as Dungeon Master over Skype for a group of my friends. In my other group, I'm a player 99.9% of the time (I play a rogue 😎) so I am fairly new to acting as DM. That said, I've done it enough in person to feel like doing it remotely is much harder.

News from the Reading Front

This month, I read two non-fiction books, one novel, a comic, and a manga book.
Right now, over half of the books I've read this year are not comics or manga, which is a goal I've set for myself this year. I feel the need to mention this now because I've stocked up on Haikyuu!! volumes for the lockdown... 

https://giphy.com/gifs/hair-flip-i-regret-nothing-kim-possible-npAfXd5WrDMCk
 
News from the Writing Front

I'm thirteen chapters into my edits. That's not as exciting as it sounds - I still have sixty-three to go and I've changed the whole magic system.

News from the Net
  • For anyone who doesn't know this (or has forgotten), you can block tags on Tumblr. Just go into settings, scroll down until you see "filtered tags", hit the edit (pencil) symbol, and add the tags you want to block. I might have to put up with the news on Twitter, but Tumblr? Are you kidding?
  • Have you heard Overshare by Kelsea Ballerini? Most. Relatable. Song. Ever.  
  • Did anyone else take part in the "Turn a Potato into a DC Character" meme? You can see my attempt here.  
Let me know your favorite DnD class in the comments.
 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Who's up for a Heist? (The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45694773-the-secret-chapter
3/5

"It did attempt to leave the European Union last year, but apparently that was prompted by demonic interference. A lot of politicians were subsequently tried for treason and beheaded at the Tower of London." - Genevieve Cogman, The Secret Chapter

I gave all of the other Invisible Library books five stars, but I just couldn't get in to this one.

It's a heist story.

(But... you love heist stories...)

I know I do!

To get her hands on a one-of-a-kind book that will stabilise the world she went to school in, Irene (and Kai, of course) take a job from a shady crime boss. Join his team. Steal a painting. Get the book. Sounds simple, right? Never.

One of the main issues I had with this book was that I could not keep the fey on the heist team straight. Tina was the driver. Jerome was a gambler. Felix was a thief. Ernst was... With the exception of Jerome, none of them were particuarly interesting. There was also a rebel dragon princess, Indigo, with an agenda of her own. 

The real villain of this novel (who will remain nameless) is one of the best I've read in a while, because her points are valid. She rails against the myths that make up her culture's history and keep the current status quo in place. Don't get me wrong - she's no crusader for the powerless - she only wants to dismantle the system to build her own equally unfair one in its place, but she's clever, and complicated, and obstinate. Her opinions clash with those of some of the heroes and, to many people in our society, she will at times appear to have the more reasonable stance. 


Who's your favourite fictional villain?

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Who're You Calling a Sidekick? (Robin: 80th Anniversary Super Spectacular)

A disclaimer before I start this review. Pretty much everything I have read of Flippy Robin (Dick Grayson) either features him as Nightwing or was written after he had become Nightwing. I'm not particuarly familiar with Dead Robin (Jason Todd), and I haven't read, in my personal opinion, nearly enough of Smart Robin (Tim Drake) given what's out there. I have read nearly all of Bubbly Robin's (Stephanie Brown) run as Robin and Batgirl, and I've also read a lot of Stabby Robin (Damian Wayne). All this to say that there are probably many people on the internet who know more about the characters than I do, but when has that stopped me from ranting gushing about comics before?

As Robin has now been around as a superhero moniker for 80 years, DC published the Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular on Wednesday. It has a lot of variant covers, most of which are amazing, but these two are my favourites. The one on the left is by Derrick Chew and the one on the right is by Yasmine Putri.


(Your bias is showing.)

I don't know what you're talking about. If you want to take a look at all of the available variants, you can see them here


This comic contains ten stories: four about Dick Grayson, one about Jason Todd, two about Tim Drake, one about Stephanie Brown, and two about Damian Wayne.

A Little Nudge by Marv Wolfman (Writing), Tom Grummett (Pencils), Scott Hanna (Inks), Adriano Lucas (Colours), and Tom Napolitano (Lettering)

The first story about Dick Grayson is yet another take on how the first Robin split from Batman. It's an enjoyable story, and it's a much more amicable version than most others, but it must be at least the fifth take on this that I've read. And I haven't been reading comics all that long.

Aftershocks by Chuck Dixon (Writing), Scott McDaniel (Pencils), Rob Hunter (Inks), Protobunker (Colours), and Carlos M. Mangual (Lettering) 

The second Dick Grayson story is about Nightwing during the Cataclysm. It looks like it's been pulled straight from the 1996-2009 Nightwing comics because it has the same writer/artist combo. Dick works with an emergency services worker to save a baby from a car trapped on a bridge. It's an alright story and I did quite like the art style.

Team Building by Devin Grayson (Writing), Dan Jurgens (Layouts), Norm Rapmund (Finishes), Hi-Fi (Colours), and Troy Peteri (Lettering) 

The third one focuses on Nightwing as part of the Titans and I would say it's the best of the four focusing on Dick Grayson. We have H.I.V.E agents being chewed out because the Titans worked flawlessly as a team to defeat them. The dialogue is quippy and fun, and the story moves seamlessly between Damian Dahrk yelling at the H.I.V.E agents and flashbacks to the battle they just lost. 

The Lesson Plan by Tim Seeley (Writing), Tom King (Writing), Mikel Janín (Artist), Jeromy Cox (Colours), and Tom Napolitano (Lettering)

It's not a popular opinion, but I thought Tim Seeley's run on Rebirth: Nightwing was really strong. He focused a lot on the bonds the character had with other superheroes, and that ability to build relationships is central to what makes Nightwing better than different from Batman.  

This story focuses on Dick's time in Spyral. (Let's not get into how much I hate how that arc starts...) Dick is acting as a mentor to his young partner and explaining to her everything his mentor taught him (flashbacks of Batman contradict these lessons). This is a really fun story that focuses on how Dick loves to improvise and involves him mentoring a younger fighter as is tradition (Tim Drake, Rose Wilson, Damian Wayne...). It could have been the best story of the four except for what happened with the gorilla...

More Time by Judd Winick (Writing), Dustin Nguyen (Artist), John Kalisz (Colours), Steve Wands (Lettering) 

Oh my God. This one is a real heartbreaker. Pretty much everything I know about Jason Todd can be summed up by the fact that I refer to him as "Dead Robin", but, damn, this one hit hard. Basically, when he was Robin, Jason spent five months trying to fix Bruce's dad's watch for him and he tells him he'll give it to him officially when it's done.

He gives it to him when he's Red Hood. And not the current one who's mostly in with the Bats. Definitely the most emotionally powerful story of the bunch.

Extra Credit by Adam Beechen (Writing), Freddie E. Williams II (Artist), Jeremy Colwell (Colours), Rob Leigh (Lettering)

The first Tim Drake story is so. Much. Fun. Tim is having a meeting with a guidance councillor who is explaining to him that he needs more extracurriculars to be attractive to employers.

For the record, here are the things that I was told employers would be interested in when I was at school:
  • Extracurriculars 
  • Volunteer Work
Here are the things that employers actually wanted when I was looking for work:
  • Experience
  • A driving licence 
  • No accent
Anyway. We flash between the things Tim is told that he would need and the things he does as Robin. Think athletics, team skills, etc. I loved the format.

Boy Wonders by Jmes Tynion IV (Writing), Javier Fernandez (Artist), David Baron (Colours), and Carlos M. Mangual (Lettering)

This is the only story in the book that involves the Robins interacting with each other. In the lead up to forming the Gotham Knights (see early issues of Rebirth: Detective Comics), Tim seeks advice from Dick, Jason, and Damian as to what he should do with his life. It amused me that Damian was the one to give him the best advice, and I also thought it gave a pretty good insight into his character too: "you're only listening to the insults and not what I'm saying with them."

Fitting In by Amy Wolfram (Writing), Damion Scott (Artist), Brad Anderson (Colours), and Andworld Design (Lettering)

I never really feel like I can say that Stephanie is my favourite Robin, because she isn't Robin for very long, but she is my favourite superhero. Robin-Stephanie is probably more jaded than you'd expect since I refer to her as "Bubbly Robin", but, Bat-mandated daddy issues aside, she tends to be quite an upbeat character and she's adorably excited about being Robin. That said, I didn't like her story all that much. I can definitely see what the writer was going for, but I think the costume issues could have taken up fewer pages and I also wasn't keen on the art style. 

I did like the bit at the end. During Steph's tenure as Robin, Bruce compares her constantly to Tim, so having the character turn around and tell him that she's not Tim and he has to let her be herself is SO cathartic. In Boy Wonders, Tim mentions that Dick is the ideal that they all have to live up to, and Bruce does compare all of the Robins to an idealised version of Dick at times, but both Steph and Damian have had to compete with an idealised version of Tim too. He tells Steph that Tim would have waited outside like he asked. Blatant. Lies.

My Best Friend by Peter J. Tomasi (Writing), Jorge Jimenez (Artist), Alejandro Sanchez (Colours), and Rob Leigh (Lettering)

This was so cute! Also, Super Sons written by Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by Jorge Jimenez! It's Jon reflecting on his friendship with Damian for a school paper he has to write about his best friend. It's incredibly short (6 pages), but it's probably the last Super Sons we're going to get for a while and I think I speak for everyone who loves that series when I say we will take any crumb DC are willing to give us. 

Bat and Mouse by Robbie Thompson (Writing), Ramon Villalobos (Artist), Tamra Bonvillain (Artist), and Tom Napolitano (Lettering)

This focused on the relationship between Damian and his father in the aftermath of a recent death. They feel like they don't understand each other, but their thought processes are amusingly similar. This one relates to something that has been going on in Teen Titans, which I haven't read, but the gist of it is that Damian is taking some rather extreme measures to ensure that criminals do not reoffend and Bruce doesn't know. I didn't like the art style. 

This is a nice anthology. I enjoyed Team Building, The Lesson Plan, More Time, Extra Credit, Boy Wonders, and My Best Friend, which are over half the stories.


Do you have a favourite superhero?

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Happy International Women's Day! (Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40554112-invisible-women
"Most of recorded human history is one big data gap." - Caroline Criado-Perez, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

It seems fitting to post this review on International Women's Day, of all days. Invisible Women is a book that demonstrates that the world is designed for men because, historically, male voices have shaped it. It is not malicious in intention, it's just that the people in charge tend to make decisions based on their own experiences and, time and time again, regardless of time or place, the male experience is regarded as universal as a result. 

As we rely on data more and more in our lives, this becomes more and more of a problem. Suprisingly (or not, depending on how cynical you are), rather than talking to women, or hiring more women, or doing the goddamn research, time and time again the solution is to try and change 50% of the earth's population instead. Why don't we train women to speak lower (rather than update our technology so that it recognises women's voices), educate them on why these stoves are better (rather than asking them which needs the new stoves are not meeting), tell them to be more assertive (and then criticise them for it)? Frequently, the book told of how women were flat-out removed from data gathered because their bodies were considered too complicated. That medication works on men is seen as a necessity. That it works on women is seen as a bonus. And if it only works at certain times of the month? Well. If only women didn't have such complicated bodies... "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

And it isn't going to change. Not as long as the idea that "what is male is universal (and what is female is niche)" remains embedded in our culture. Possibly the most shocking statement in the book for me was that prominent historian David Starkey feels that female historians focus too much on Henry VIII's wives - putting the political consequences of his rule, like the reformation, second. I expected the medical issues, the political issues, the technological issues. I struggle to comprehend how the causes of the reformation can be properly discussed without at least some focus on the political connections of Catherine of Aragon and the political ambitions of Anne Boleyn. Had Henry VIII not decided he wanted to leave his first wife for another, what reason would there have been for the reformation? Starkey goes further, suggesting that "[i]f you are to do a proper history of Europe before the last five minutes it is a history of white males because they were the power players, and to pretend anything else is to falsify." (Invisible Women, page 20, and referenced in the endnotes as http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/5077505/history-has-been-feminised-says-David-Starkey-as-he-launches-Henry-VIII-series.html)
What of royals like Empress Matilda (1102-1167), Elizabeth I (1533-1603), and Queen Victoria (1819-1901), who were also involved in important political events and changes? (And let us not forget that, just as much as we talk about Henry VIII's wives, we talk about Elizabeth I's lack of husband.) What of businesswomen like Mary Seacole (1805-1881), who funded and ran her own hospital to treat soldiers during the Crimean War? What of scientists like Marie Curie (1867-1934), the first woman to win not only one Nobel Prize, but two, recognising her contributions to physics and chemistry? Women were less involved in public life than men for a long time due to social mores, but that does not mean that they were not there. That they were not trying, and doing, and living. History is not just about power, about who had the money, and the status, and the prestige. History is about people. An interest in female historical figures is just as worthy of exploration as an interest in male historical figures, and removing them from our past leaves holes that cannot be filled. 

The endnotes for this book go on for SIXTY-EIGHT pages. The amount of research the author has done is incredible and, hopefully, by recognising data bias, we can start to fill in the gaps.
  
Happy International Women's Day!

Who is your favourite historical woman?

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Books with One-Word Titles

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/
I feel like I fell into a blogging slump and just never came back out. 

(Technically speaking, you fell into a slump in general.) 

BUT, who cares, because Top Ten Tuesday exists with its endless list of prompts. Today we're talking about books with single-word titles. I expect a lot of these will be heavily character-focused as one-word titles are often character names. So...

https://giphy.com/gifs/thegoldbergs--1990-the-goldbergs-l3dj09hpsfuYkijDi

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13104964-seraphinaSeraphina by Rachel Hartman

Here be dragons!

Seraphina is a novel with heart and a heroine you'll want to hang out with. 

(And you still need to read the sequel.)

...And I still need to read the sequel. 


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30137754-belovedBeloved by Toni Morrison

The novel that earned the late Toni Morrison the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. After the civil war, Sethe, a former slave, is haunted by the ghost of her dead baby.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1063179.EmmaEmma by Jane Austen 

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, and doomed to marry a man who is more like a brother than a lover to her.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24980159-sleeplessSleepless by Lou Morgan

Oh look, it's not named after a character!

(For shame!)
 
 Despite it's very confusing ending, I strongly recommend this horror novel about exam stress and a mysterious study drug. Dear World, maybe consider putting less stress on teenagers when it comes to exams.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18067050-unbreakableUnbreakable by Kami Garcia

Definitely inspired by Supernatural and probably inspired by The Mortal Instruments, Unbreakable follows Kennedy Waters as she hunts ghosts and tries to choose between twin brothers in the standard YA love triangle.
 
https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1388580383l/20409605.jpgShiver, Linger, Forever, and Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Here's a whole trilogy (and a follow-up) with one-word titles. Part of the forbidden love craze that swept YA fiction around the time that Twilight was big, the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy is about young love and a very unique type of werewolf.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12873.Rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Narrated by the second wife of Maxim de Winter, but named for the first, Rebecca is a Gothic tale that reminds me very much of the Bluebeard fairytale. An older husband, a young wife, and a dark secret.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12888231-scarletScarlet by A.C. Gaughen

A Robin Hood retelling about a gender-flipped Will Scarlet. It has an interesting premise and a decent twist, but I found that the romance really bogged this novel down.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36381037-cinder?Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Another retelling - Cinder is a cyborg-take on Cinderella, but the universe begs, borrows and steals from a wide array of fairytales including Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Don't forget to drop your Top Ten Tuesday link in the comments!

What's your favourite novel with a one-word title?

Saturday, 29 February 2020

February Wrap-up


Snow is falling (lightly) on the UK. In British terms, this is a disaster. 

If they even think of cancelling the trains... 

This month, work has swallowed me, editing has taken off (slowly, but we're moving), and I've developed an obsession with the Rent soundtrack. 😎

News from the Reading Front

I've only read six books so far this year. And I've only read one manga book in February. I need to put more of an effort in - between work and having a social life, it's not as easy as it used to be.
News from the Writing Front

Of course, another issue of balancing reading with life is that if I'm reading, I'm not editing. I've found that editing is much easier if I tell myself that I have to just do ONE chapter when I sit down to work. I tend to edit a lot as I go anyway, so the early chapters are pretty solid. It's the later chapters which are mostly affected by the changes I want to make during this run-through. That's where editing will get more exciting...

News from the Blogging Front

My last post was on Valentine's Day, so I think it's safe to say it's been a slow blogging month. (Valentine's Day also feels like it was only yesterday, so I think it's also safe to say it's been a hectic month in my life.) If you missed the latest Dear Ivy, you can read it here. Fair warning, it's not as funny as previous years.  

News from the Net
  • Maddie and Tae are releasing their new album, The Way it Feels, on 10th April 2020.
  • Kelsea Ballerini is dropping her new album, Kelsea, on the 20th March 2020. Check out the countdown on her website.
How was your February? 

Friday, 14 February 2020

Dear Ivy...

Dear Ivy,

There is a lady I wish to wed. She is beautiful, independent, and virtuous. There's just one problem...

She's dead-set on becoming a nun.

I don't understand. I can make her the happiest, wealthiest woman in the city, and she wants to lock herself away in a nunnery?! Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Yours sincerely,

Definitely Not a Duke

(Dear Definitely Not a Duke,

Methinks the man listens too little. 

This lady clearly does not want a relationship right now. Maybe she'll want one later, but, given the plan to enter the convent, I doubt it. Some people like to be single. They might have other things they want to focus on - like your lady friend - they might still be figuring things out, or they might just not be interested. Full stop. 

And that's okay. 

Let go. Move on. You'll both be better for it.

Yours sincerely,

Ivy

P.S. Whatever you do, do not propose to her in front of a bunch of people. I mean, honestly, you know what she wants and it's neither you nor your ring.)

Dear Ivy,

Only days ago, the king's former wife lost her head. Tomorrow, I will take his hand. I have worked hard to get here, played politics to steal his heart and pave a path back to the throne for the princess his fleeting former love led him to disinherit. 

And yet, I wonder if I will face the same fate. We have... differing religious opinions. Religion became quite the sticking point between him and his previous wives. Such a sticking point, in fact, that he chose to turn the country upside down merely to leave one and take another.

The last queen, they say, lasted a thousand days. I fear I will not last more than a year.

Yours sincerely,

Third Time Lucky

(Dear Third Time Lucky,

Oh, good lord. Ladies, here's a standard rule of thumb: if he's had a wife killed, maybe don't go running down the aisle to become his next victim. 

You say you're concerned about religious differences. Yes, they can cause tension in a relationship, but so can many things. Couples from different walks of life marry every day and there's no reason why two people of different faiths can't be as happy together as two people of the same faith. Mutual respect is, after all, important in any relationship. 

Since you've been playing politics, no doubt you have some very persuasive voices whispering away in your ear, but shut them all out and run, because if you walk down that aisle you'll lose your life to this man one way or another.

Yours sincerely,

Ivy

P.S. Bad things come in threes. In this case, four is the lucky number...)  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Want more questionable advice? Check out Dear Ivy... 2018 and 2019.